I’ve been thinking a lot about calories recently. “Haven’t we all?” you might be thinking – even the fittest and healthiest people spend precious time thinking about their calorific intake, how can you blame them when we live in a society that is constantly screaming about ZERO calories in this, no added sugar in that, fat free, carb free and all the rest until our brain is a mess of jumbled messages and advertising spiel? If you follow my health channel you’ll know about my well-documented journey to being healthier and my struggles with weight gain that came with a PCOS diagnosis. Honestly, I eat really really well. I don’t remember the last time I went out and bought a bag of crisps or a chocolate bar, alcohol is something that happens once every two months if that, I don’t eat white bread (or bread at all for that matter usually!) white pasta, white potatoes or refined sugar. I make 99% of my food myself from scratch and I swap rice for quinoa, bread for wholegrain wraps and potato wedges for their lower-GI sweet cousins. But I’m not losing weight like I’d like to, and by “like I’d like to” I mean not at all.
I’ve been really open with my PCOS struggles and how it’s affected me, but I feel like now is crunch time in a lot of ways. People with PCOS (and I mean this in the kindest possible way) can often use it as an excuse – “oh I don’t lose weight easily” “my insulin resistance means I look at a carb and gain weight!” and “it’s just not FAIR” and yes, they’re right, it isn’t fair. We have to work out twice as hard as others, worry about the healthy carbs – even fruit, and the cruel irony is that PCOS makes it hard to lose weight but the cure is often weight loss. It’s hard sometimes to know that if I lost 20lb my PCOS would start to correct itself but the PCOS itself makes that very weight loss difficult. It’s a shit, it really is, but it’s not the end of the world and it isn’t impossible.
I’ve gained weight since I moved to London, mainly because a lot of my meetings take place in restaurants, but also because I moved in with a boy (we all know how that is) and well, boys like to eat and can more or less get away with it. I can’t. Since I realised how much weight I’d put on I’ve been working to stop it, and I’ll lose a pound or three and then nothing. I’m no nutritionist but since my diagnosis with PCOS almost seven years ago I’ve done a lot of reading and educated myself about food, but to be honest it’s not like I come from a family of processed food lovers that don’t cook. I was raised on homemade meals and I’ve been veggie since I was about 11 so I know my tofu from my seitan and the importance of healthy proteins and grains. So why am I not losing weight? It would be easy (and believe me I have days when I feel like this) to sit back and blame the PCOS, and yes, it is to blame, but let me give you (a rather dramatic, granted) analogy. If someone framed you for murder and put you in prison (I told you it was dramatic!) you would blame them yes, but would you sit back in your cell and let the days roll on? No, you’d fight your way out of there no matter what it took. That’s how I feel about PCOS. Some people fight their way out of that cell, or at least try to, and some people just feel angry and blame it.
So what has this got to do with calories? Well, since I eat a good diet, don’t eat things that suck for me and I’m not an idiot when it comes to looking after myself, I have to start looking at what I’m eating and be honest with myself. I might be eating great stuff but how much of that great stuff am I eating? Portion control can be a bitch, and I hate it in all honesty. When I’m in the kitchen I like to throw things into the pan and enjoy the cooking process, not meticulously weigh things and look up their calorie content, but hey, I need to get out of that cell and I have to do what it takes. You have to be really honest with yourself, not round things up or guess, and use a reliable tracker. I love the Myfitnesspal app, it’s free and it’s great, especially because it has a barcode function. Not all cheeses, smoothies or even wraps are made equally, so scanning the barcode to find out exactly what’s in YOUR greek yoghurt as opposed to another brand makes it super accurate. It might only be 20 calories here and there but when you think of everything you put in your mouth throughout the day? It adds up. It’s also great in terms of exercise, and that’s another thing I need to be really honest about. How often have I been pushing myself, and I mean really pushing myself? Probably more than enough for a regular person but again, I’m stuck in that cell and regular isn’t going to cut it.
When I made my #eatcleanmarch video it didn’t signal much of a change for me personally in terms of what I’m eating. I already eat a very clean diet, I was excited to make it completely clean and share the experience and recipes with you guys, but it made me think, about calories, about exercise and about what more I could do. I still think eating clean is the most important change you can make. No matter what anyone says, 1400 calories a day of processed ready meals is not the same as 1400 calories of homecooked healthy food. Your body won’t do the same thing with it and you won’t feel the same way. But if you’ve been eating well, and feeling like you just can’t catch a break, maybe it’s time to be really honest with yourself, PCOS or no PCOS. There are divided camps with calories – people that count too much (and I firmly believe our society leads us to near-obsession) and people who don’t count at all “I just eat well and don’t go crazy” (to which I say you lucky SOD!)
The truth is like most things in life, the middle ground is where I want to be. I’ll never let it take over my life and worry about the numbers to the point of obsession (and you shouldn’t either) but I have to make myself aware of it, and bear it in mind. Especially if I’m stuck in that cell…
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